Wednesday May 6 - Sunday May 10
2015 MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL
"Station North" Baltimore.
by Scott Braid, Maryland Film Festival Festival Programming Administrator
It's that time of year again where I give readers of the Shank my hot tips for what to see at the Maryland Film Festival. Due to a glitch of Google drive I lost the original version of my list (which I had spent 4 hours writing) and so have to put it back together with not much time. So please forgive any typos and punctuation errors made in my sleep-deprived haze.
It should go without saying that I love all of the films at MDFF and that these are just a few things that, if I were an attendee, I would prioritize in my viewing schedule.
As we all know the lead up to this year's MDFF has been very different than any other year. Given the events of the last few weeks here, it seems only proper to begin my list by highlighting some of the more politically progressive and thought-provoking works that will screen within MDFF 2015.
THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION directed by Stanley Nelson
This dense and exciting doc from Emmy Award-winning director Stanley Nelson, is a crucial overview of the Black Panthers, their legacy and the government forces that sought to destroy them. Could there be a more timely look at the Black Panthers' resistance to police brutality?
DO THE RIGHT THING directed by Spike Lee
A film that urgently needs revisiting in the current moment in Baltimore. Spike Lee's seminal account of exploding racial tensions during a steamy Brooklyn summer in the 1980s should not be missed.
BEATS OF THE ANTONOV directed by Hajooj Kuka
An incredible and awe-inspiring tale of the resilience of the human spirit under the most extreme, war-ravaged conditions imaginable. The Sudanese of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains regions of Sudan, continue the struggle to maintain their culture and livelihood during the oppressive and perilous ongoing civil war. BEATS won the People's Choice Documentary Award at TIFF 2014.
WELCOME TO LEITH directed by Michael B. Nichols and Christopher K. Walker
A thrilling and blood-boiling account of white-supremacist Craig Cobb's attempts to take over a small town in North Dakota, to begin his dark dream of a whites-only homestead. Riveting from its first frame to its last, a reminder of the dangers of fundamentalist belief and extreme right-wing politics.
VENICE directed by Kiki Alvarez
One of the first crowd-funded films to come out of Cuba, VENICE is a heartfelt look at female friendship over the course of one long night in the streets and clubs of Havana. Marked by strong female characters and written by the actors themselves in collaboration with the director, VENICE shows three female friends searching for freedom from their problems and the strictures of a male dominated world. One of my favorite films from TIFF 2014.
BEST OF ENEMIES directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon
An expertly crafted document of the extremely contentious prime-time debates between liberal author, playwright and political commentator Gore Vidal and his arch-conservative nemesis William F. Buckley, Jr., during the 1968 conventions. Both fun to watch and educational, a must see for anyone who saw it happen or has no idea who these people are!
GOD BLESS THE CHILD directed by Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck
A stirring portrait of a group of siblings faced with an irresponsible and often absent parent. The film's documentary-like approach to observing children as they interact with each other and the outside world without the benefit of adult supervision, pays off in a richly layered and emotionally complex film. A true work of art.
UNEXPECTED directed by Kris Swanberg
A smart and insightful look at the racial and economic disparity between two expectant young mothers. A young, white teacher and one of her African-American students bond over the fact that they have both become pregnant around the same time, but they face very different realities. Deftly directed by MDFF alum Kris Swanberg.
THE REAPER directed by Zvonimir Juric
An unflinching and masterful narrative centered around an ex-con who is unable to escape his past in a small Croatian village. Recommended to fans of Haneke, Bruno Dumont and the like.
DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD directed by Douglas Tirola
A fun and informative look at the history of the National Lampoon magazine and the influence it has had on the world of modern comedy.
CROCODILE GENNADIY directed by Steve Hoover
A charismatic Ukrainian pastor wages a one man war against rampant childhood drug addiction on the streets of Mariupol. Executive Produced by Terence Malick this is a tough, uncompromising and breathtaking piece of documentary cinema.
If you have more adventurous tastes and you're looking for something a little more cinematically afield, I would highly recommend the following:
FUNNY BUNNY directed by Alison Bagnall
A wonderfully quirky buddy comedy about an eccentric young millionaire shut-in named Titty; an internet celebrity named Ginger that Titty desires; and Gene, a door-to-door crusader against childhood obesity who is unexpectedly pulled into their orbit.
UNCLE KENT 2 - clip | Official Selection Maryland Film Festival 2015 from Maryland Film Festival on Vimeo.
UNCLE KENT 2 directed by Todd Rohal
One of the most unique and purely creative films I've seen in years, UNCLE KENT 2 is an unexpected and darkly hilarious psychotronic journey that has to be experienced to be believed!
A WONDERFUL CLOUD directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko
If you can imagine Woody Allen and John Waters collaborating on a romantic comedy together then you start to be in the ballpark of this hilariously bonkers film. From the unique mind that brought you MDFF 2010's 0s & 1s, A WONDERFUL CLOUD is an MDFF must see!
CHAOS REIGNS SHORTS directed by various
An unholy trinity of transgressive shorts that deal with sex, murder and demonic possession.
WHY DO THE WTF SHORTS RUN AMOK? directed by various
It's all here! A pee shy cop, unwelcome attempts at a roommate threesome, Ronald Reagan, a misbehaved turkey, a murderous crow, botched home invasion, internet voyeurism, horny conquistadors, lovers spurned, and your morning announcements!
Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you at the festival!